Here is THEIR setting:
. . . and here is ours:
We felt a little like poor relations, but we felt a little better after we checked out the view, which is not your typical restaurant view in the United States:
We started with the usual bread and olives, the latter being about a thousand times better than the former:
Next were six different cooked vegetables,
. . . and two different kinds of lamb tagine: mine with vegetables:
. . . and Bob's with prunes:
Dessert was the usual: two apples, two oranges, and two bananas, but with three coconut lemon cookies, a rare treat.
Over the years, Morocco has had four different capitals: Fes, Marrakesh, Meknes, and Rabat (the current capital). If you think that is a lot, trying figuring out how many capitals the United States has had. (See information here.) Of the four, Meknes was the one I had never heard of.
Meknes was founded in the 11th century as a military settlement, and after changing hands several times, it became the capital of Morocco under Sultan Moulay Ismail from 1672-1727. To put these dates in context, this was during the early days of the American colonies. The Salem Witch Trials took place during that time. During those years Britain's Charles I died and James II ascended to the throne, then was deposed in the Glorious Revolution and replaced by William and Mary, who were replaced by Anne, who was replaced by George I, who was replaced by George II. Louis XIV was king of France. Peter the Great became Tsar of Russia. In general, there was a lot of upheaval and change going on all over the world, but Moulay Ismail held steady in Morocco.
We entered through the spectacular Bab el-Khemis Gate, or "Thursday Gate," so named because there used to be a market just inside this gate on Thursdays. Moulay Ismail liked the Spanish Moorish style, which is reflected here. The holes in the walls are for aeration.
The intricate designs on the gate are stunning:
Across from the Bab Mansour Gate is a large open square:
Bob had heard about and was excited to see the snake charmers in Marrakesh, which we'd be visiting later, but lo and behold, there were snake charmers in Meknes. Bob is drawn to snakes like steel to a magnet, so of course we had to go look.
There were "snake charmers" playing flutes, but since there were no cobras, it didn't have quite the right effect:
That big fat one is a puff adder, the snake responsible for causing the most snakebite deaths in Africa. It is one of the most toxic snakes in the world.
Of course, Bob wanted to hold the puff adder, but he had to settle for something a little less exciting. Darn. He tipped the charmer about 50 cents, which didn't seem to make the guy very excited, but he didn't complain.
We left the square for a stroll through the souk. I never grew tired of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of these ancient market places:
Hassan, in the red and black sweater below, leads the way:
We were amazed by the variety of olives, and we bought them several times during our trip:
These olives sat out in the open air all day and were frequently handled by the shopkeepers' bare hands.
We bought a pint-sized cup of a mixed variety for about $1.65. I tried not to think too much about hygiene when I ate (and enjoyed) them.
Later in the day we visited another market that was a bit like a swap meet. The locals were buying and selling personal goods. Hassan said it was not a tourist place, but that we could watch and take a few discrete pictures:
I'm guessing they get better prices for their purchases than we do, but that's okay.